This Space for Rent

Picture of the day


On Sunday, Russell dropped his camera when it was turned on, which managed to jam the lens open. Point and shoot cameras do not like it when their cheap and flimsy lenses don’t work, so I slowly took the camera apart trying to get down to the lens mechanism to unjam it. When I eventually reached it, I was able to verify that it was indeed not jammed, but broken, and this made the camera a US$80 pile of junk.

These days we’re poor (the best is in graduate school, and I’m a stay at home dad, so our only income is stuff I’m selling on ebay and the pitiful remains of my retirement funds (in a better world, this wouldn’t bother me because of social security, but, alas, Wall Street made some very good investments a few years ago and it’s less of a henhouse now than it’s a foxhouse with a minor hen problem,)) so I can’t just gallop out and buy a replacement point and shoot (and I don’t know if I’d really want to, given the way the bears gallop about with cameras swinging wildly at the ends of their arms. The bodies of the cameras are pretty safe, but el-cheapo pop-out lenses tend not to deal with repeated impacts very well.

“Oh, bother,” said I, “why can’t someone make a point and shoot with removable lenses???” And then I remembered that I’ve got a couple of Pentax 110 cameras that I bought primarily so I could see how hard it would be to build a digital back for one of them. Now, the Kodak isn’t very well suited to be made into a digital back, because it really wants to be auto everything and it’s got all of these electronic gadgets stuck to it that it wants to self-test every time it fire up, but the only electronics that are actually inside the lens mechanism is the automatic aperture, and other than that the only camera interface to the lens is the focus/zoom/retract motor.

So, if I removed all of the lens mechanism except for the barrel (which has the limiters for the zoom motor) and the back part of the lens (which has the aperture) it should be enough for the thing to be able to perform a self-test and boot, right? Easy enough to test, and it’s certainly not going to break anything that’s not already broken.

So I pulled the lens apart, discarded the zoom/retract/focus part, stacked all of the rest of the camera pieces back together, put in a battery, and pressed the power button. And the thing powered up!

So then it was simply a matter of getting some dark construction paper, making a temporary lightbox, then grabbing the 18mm lens off my Pentax 110 and, after manually focussing (by moving the entire lens forward and back) and selecting the right mode (“small child” mode, which appears to be as close as you can get to manual on these crappy little cameras) I started taking pictures.

All of them are screamingly overexposed (Pentax 110 lenses do not have an aperture – the 110 aperture is part of the camera, so the only constraint on the lens is that they don’t go slower than f2.8,) but, by god, it’s close enough so that you can see the red space owl robot and some of the details of the wall around it.

Yes, it’s pretty amazingly Holgariffic (the light box isn’t very lightboxish, so the automatic flash gets into everything) but it’s a picture, and it’s the salvation of this camera before the cheapy little motor burns itself out trying to adjust the horrible built-in lens.

And the thought of using high-quality metal AOC optics with this cruddy little camera fills me with a glee. I guess I’ll have to buy a new cheapo camera for Russell, but this might solve my desire for a tiny robust bike camera without having to go out and buy a rangefinder camera to supplement my bigger Pentax.

And it appears that the crop factor of the Kodak is about the same as the crop factor of the 110, so the 18mm lens gives me a ~35mm APS-C equivalent for much less than the cost of a Micro-4/3ths camera.


She is back in grad school? How cool is that! Still chem or something altogethere new and different?

Happily or sadly, this news immediately reminded me of “You’re Being Weeded Out.” Hope that she hasn' that feeling still. :)

Lynn Dobbs Tue Mar 17 18:37:47 2009

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